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Water: A True Undiscovered Classic

Updated on November 7, 2012

I had never even heard of this movie until I randomly came across its trailer, and after seeing it I knew I had to check it out. The ridiculous concept of a obscure British colony suddenly discovering a fortune in mineral water, plus the acting chops of Michael Caine and Billy Connolly, were both things I had to check out. And I was not disappointed.

As noted above, the story of "Water" is set on an obscure British colony, a Caribbean island named Cascara mostly populated by the descendants of shipwreck survivors. Its lack of beaches plus an abominable wind blowing in every direction makes it unattractive to tourism and it has few resources, so the British government is secretly considering shutting it down. A two-man revolutionary group led by Delgado Fitzhugh (Connolly), the illegitimate son of the local pastor who refuses to speak until the island is free (so he sings badly instead) causes minor mayhem (such as an abortive attempt to take over the local radio station). And an American oil company, Spenco, is opening up an abandoned oil well as part of a publicity campaign based around the "shitholes of the world."

Except when they restart the well, what comes out is not oil but extremely high quality mineral water. Suddenly Cascara has something of value, and it's up to governor Baxter Thwaites (Caine) to try to wade through the British, American, French, and Cuban elements that are suddenly very interested in the island, as well as dealing with a cute environmental activist named Pamela Weintraub (Valerie Perrine) who wants to bring back a species of bat once native to the island.

What results is a satirical farce, where stuffy Brits, avaricious Americans, and opportunistic Cubans each try to gain power over the island in order to enrich themselves, and Baxter finds himself siding more and more with Delgado and his cause of independence, as the situation itself becomes increasingly ridiculous. Ultimately, "Water" is a fun rollicking ride.

Caine does very well as the main character. Baxter Thwaites is well aware of how little Cascara is of value to either the British empire or the world, but he still loves the people he administers. I loved how the film starts with him somewhat resigned but how over the course of the story he gets fired up with the cause of Cascaran independence, causing him to become a heroic figure. He also plays well off all of the other characters, including the hopeless revolutionary Delgado, the limousine liberal Pam, the stuffy British representative Sir Malcolm ( Leonard Rossiter), his constantly complaining wife Dolores ( Brenda Vaccaro), and a slimy Spenco executive (Dennis Dugan), helping the film to really click together.

It really is a shame that this film hasn't gotten more notice. Probably a mixture of its rather generic title, somewhat unmarketable concept (a satire about British colonialism), and bad luck, it deserves much more. If you happen upon it, you should definitely check it out.

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